Category Archives: Washington Valor

Deep Routes: A Weekly Dive Into the Statistics of the AFL

by Anthony Reinhard

Hi everyone! This will be my first weekly post where I’ll share some forecasts from my AFL Elo model and occasionally make a deep dive into some AFL data that I’ve collected.

Model Refresh

Albany was surprisingly upset last week on the road, but retains the top spot in my rankings. Philadelphia jumps to #2 after clinching a playoff spot. The Soul will try to keep their momentum flowing in the only game this week. They are a 4.5pt favorite over Atlantic City.

As far as the playoffs go, Baltimore is the only team that can clinch a playoff berth this week with an AC loss. A loss by the Blackjacks wouldn’t eliminate them, but my model has their odds dropping to around 1 in 400.

A Tale of Two Expansion Offenses

The Destroyers suffered a painful 38 point loss last Friday at Baltimore. This was the largest margin of victory since ArenaBowl XXX champ Philadelphia ran up a 70-21 win, also in Baltimore, during the 2017 season. Columbus scored twice in the second quarter, but was shutout in the second half. This was the first time a team has been held scoreless in a half this season and the 105th time in league history. The last instance came in Week 11 last year when the Valor failed to put up any second half points against the Soul.

It sadly gets worse for Columbus as they posted the 6th worst offensive performance since box scores became available in 2000. The Destroyers scored just 12 points on their 13 offensive possessions.

On the other side of the coin, Atlantic City had an offensive explosion in their win over Washington. They became the 15th team to post a 7.0 or better after scoring 63 offensive points on 9 drives behind new QB Warren Smith. In Week 3 of this year, Albany hung 50 offensive points on the Soul on only 7 possessions, the only team to exceed 7.0. Albany put their name on the list again two weeks ago.

Smith v. Hippeard

Warren Smith has now logged two successful starts as Blackjacks QB. Original starter Randy Hippeard has officially been “questionable” to play in both games since going down in Week 8 against Philadelphia. It seems to be an open question as to whether he will return and resume his duties as starter, but I thought it would be a good idea to compare where the players shake out by the numbers, both this year and last.

Hippeard played better last year and his larger sample size tends to give me more confidence he can deliver above-average production in the long-term. Smith’s solid play as of late should allow him to hold onto the job for the time being though.

Turnaround for the Blackjack Defense

Last week I tweeted that the Blackjacks would be in serious jeopardy if their defense did not pick up the slack after allowing a touchdown on 23 straight drives. My concerns were initially justified, as Washington scored on their first four drives on Saturday night. AC finally recorded a stop when they picked off an end-of-half Hail Mary from Arvell Nelson.

In the second half, a re-energized defense stopped the Valor on four of six drives to preserve a blowout 70-41 win. After the win, a certain Blackjack DB let me know that my doubt was misplaced.

Is the Commish Right?

That tweet from Northington wasn’t the only heat I caught on twitter last week. After expressing my disappointment to the AFL Tonight podcast team for not addressing a Columbus rumor during an interview with Commissioner Boe, I drew a reply a reply from the man himself. I was pleased with his answer, but I had another burning question from his interview.

Link to podcast —> http://www.arenafan.com/podcasts/randall_boe_interview.mp3

The podcast crew astutely inquired as to whether or not Commissioner Boe was concerned with the drop in scoring this season (about 1:20 to 4:05). The commish replied that the league’s focus moving forward was to shorten the real-time length of the game while still providing a high-octane product. Boe went on to assert that while points are down, points per minute of game time are up. I knew that possessions per game were down significantly so I thought I’d look into it.

My findings show that points per minute are actually down modestly this season. As Boe mentioned, he’s seen a substantial drop in game length. I personally am skeptical that making games shorter will drive engagement. I’m not sure that a two hour event is all that much more attractive than a three hour event in general.

Attendance has dropped again for the fourth straight year. The four non-expansion teams however have posted steady attendance numbers as a whole, so attendance is likely not a major concern moving toward next year.

The Race to Host ArenaBowl XXXII

Albany has not only been the best team since the start of the year, they’ve had huge lead in attendance and have clinched home field should they advance to the ArenaBowl. The next two spots have been locked in as well (to PHI and WAS, respectively), while AC has an 88% chance to host Baltimore in the unlikely event that the two meet in the ArenaBowl.

Odds of hosting ArenaBowl XXXIII:
Albany – 71.2%
Philly – 18.7%
DC – 9.8%
AC – 1 in 500
Baltimore – 1 in 3500

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2019 AFL Playoff Scenarios, Version 2.0

Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. Photo by D. Taylor

by: David Taylor

After week 10, there are as many questions as there are answers for the 2019 Arena Football League Playoffs. Teams faltered. One team punched its ticket to the postseason, and a dark horse is rising in Atlantic City. According to the official AFL tiebreaker procedures, here is an updated look at the AFL playoff picture: 

Albany Empire: (8-2) 

Playoffs: Clinched. After being upset in Philadelphia over the weekend, Albany still is in control of its own destiny. The Empire is only one win away from clinching the number one seed in the playoffs. Albany has a bye week this weekend, giving head coach Rob Keefe an extra week to prepare for the 1-9 Columbus Destroyers. 

Upcoming Games:
7/14 @ Columbus Destroyers
7/20 vs. Philadelphia Soul

Philadelphia Soul (6-4)

Playoffs: Clinched. The Soul rose to the challenge over the weekend, defeating Albany convincingly at the Wells Fargo Center. Philadelphia suddenly has an outside shot at the number one seed in the playoffs. The Soul needs to win out and need for Albany to lose to Columbus to clinch the number one seed. 

Upcoming Games:
7/6 @ Atlantic City
7/20 @ Albany

Baltimore Brigade (6-4) 

Playoffs: Baltimore is so very close to the playoffs. An Atlantic City loss this weekend will put the Brigade in. However, Baltimore loses the tiebreaker to Atlantic in head-to-head, and loses the strength of schedule tiebreaker to Washington, so if the Brigade, Valor, and Blackjacks all end up with 6-6 records, Baltimore will be the odd team out.  With games against both Washington and Atlantic City coming up, Baltimore could end up as high as the two seed, or could find themselves out of the playoffs.

Upcoming Games: 
7/13 vs. Washington
7/21@ Atlantic City

Washington Valor (5-5)

Playoffs: Washington still needs just one win to get into the postseason. The loss to Atlantic City was an eye-opening one, as Arvell Nelson was picked off multiple times. The loss also gives Atlantic City the head to head advantage based on total points scored, but Washington holds the strength of schedule tiebreaker at the moment. Valor oponents are a combined 57-43, while Atlantic City opponents are 51-48. Adding in the records of opponents over the next two weeks, however, makes things very interesting. Washington and Atlantic City’s opponents (including the record of teams in the next two unplayed games) is identical, 64-56. 

Upcoming Games: 
7/13 @Baltimore
7/20 vs. Columbus

Atlantic City (4-6)

Playoffs: The Blackjacks put up huge numbers over the weekend, defeating Washington 70-41. Atlantic City can get into the playoffs in a few ways: One, win out. Finishing 6-6 and having Baltimore also finish 6-6 will get AC into the playoffs, due to Atlantic City owning the head to head tiebreaker advantage.  Two, Finish 5-7 and have Washington also finish 5-7, which will depend on how some other games go, but Atlantic City could get in based on an identical win loss record of opposing teams in the strength of schedule category. This would put the tiebreaker down to point differential in head to head games, which would give Atlantic City an edge over Washington. Three, win out, and have Washington finish 5-7. Atlantic City plays Philadelphia in the only scheduled game over the weekend, meaning all eyes will be on the Blackjacks this weekend. 

Upcoming Games:
7/6 vs. Philadelphia
7/21 vs. Baltimore

Columbus (1-9)

Columbus is eliminated, but can still affect the playoffs in a significant manner. However, the Destroyers put up only 12 points last weekend, which won’t beat anyone. Columbus has a bye week this weekend. The season finale vs. Washington is the game with the highest stakes. 

Upcoming Games:
7/14 vs. Albany
7/20 @ Washington

With only two games to go for each team, so much is still up for grabs. That is just one of the things that makes the AFL so special. Each game is must-watch television for Arena fans, so make sure to tune in on ESPN 3!

Warren Smith Jr. “Jacks” the Valor

Atlantic City came into town with their backup QB starting, riding a 3 game losing streak and on the outside looking in for the playoff race. Washington came into the game needing a win to secure their playoff spot. Two opposing forces met on the field and a dynamic result is what we got.

The prodigal son returns, Warren Smith Jr. comes back to D.C. as the opposing QB starting against his old team and he would not disappoint. Lots of streaks would come to an end on this night and D.C. would be on the wrong end of all them.

3 game losing streak for A.C. snapped. Blackjack defense gives up points on every drive of the year snapped as they stop the Valor offense on multiple occasions on the night. Washington defense holding opponents to less than 70? Yeah that streak is gone too.

After the first half, which was a horse race of its own, we would see the game score at 35 to 28 with Atlantic City holding the lead and the Valor getting the second half kickoff with a chance to tie it up. Only that didn’t happen. What did happen though was the Warren Smith Jr. show and man was it a show.

Last year Smith played QB for the Valor and lost his starting job to current Valor QB Arvell Nelson, but still went on to win a ring with the team in the ArenaBowl last year. I have been a fan of Smith for a long time and it pains me as a Valor fan to see him have the night he did, but also I am very happy for him getting the recognition and love he deserves in this 3 game stretch, 2 of which were starts.

Smith lit up the Valor defense, going 22 of 28 on passing for 209 yards and 5 TDs with no INTs and he even did it on the ground adding 2 more TDs and 15 yards rushing. While Smith was doing Smith things, Nelson and the Valor would fold in on themselves and watch their playoff hopes take a serious hit. Nelson would throw 3 interceptions and the Valor defense would give up 70 points for the first time this year.

With the final score being 70 to 41, and the Blackjacks taking the win home with them, the .500 Valor have to find a way to rebound and get a win against their beltway rivals after their bye week. After the game there was some serious bad air around the Valor locker room. While waiting for post game interviews, I heard many not safe for work words, they may have not been safe for anywhere. Coach Benji McDowell, who is usually stone-faced and quiet in his demeanor, was loud and outgoing with his resulting anger over the Valor play on the night.

When asked, Valor WR Epps said ” We didn’t pay attention to the film the way we should have, we expected to be given a win and it didn’t happen that way.” Usually the coach is the first to give the media an interview but he would be the last on this night as he would have to walk off the anger he had after the slap in the face that the Blackjacks gave the Valor on their own home floor.

Sitting at 5-5 on the season, the bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for the Valor. Up next is a road game to Royal Farms Arena to face their beltway rivals, the Baltimore Brigade. It is a must win if the Valor want to control their own fate in the playoff race. Don’t despair Valor Nation as it was a bad game, but it was just a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things.

Arvell Nelson’s MVP hopes took a massive hit with this game throwing 3 INTs, but he still sits in 2nd with total TDs and leads the league in rushing yards and rushing TDs. Can the Valor rebound and get a win in Baltimore? Can they punch their playoff ticket without outside help? These are questions that will have to be answered in the coming weeks after the bye week. As always, be loud, be proud and be a Valor fan. Cheer on my friends!